Hotel Indoor Waterparks Boost
Revenues, Extend Peak
Season to Year Round
by Jeff Coy, ISHC
There are about 900 waterparks worldwide and nearly
400 of them are located in the USA. About 114 major waterparks in the USA
have attendance over 200,000 visitors annually. Most of them are outdoor
waterparks located in the Sunbelt states from California to Florida with
some notable exceptions, such as the Wisconsin Dells. The Dells has 14
hotels with indoor waterparks. Some waterpark owners have built hotels
adjacent to their parks. But now, there is a growing trend of building
hotels with indoor waterparks that is significantly boosting
occupancies, increasing revenues and extending peak season to year
How Did All This Get
Over 20 years, three families --- the
Waterman’s (Noah’s Ark), the Hellands (Riverview Park & Water World)
and the Matteis (Familyland) --- have built their enterprises into the
Wisconsin Dells’ three major waterparks. They have proven that you can
achieve success in a highly seasonal resort destination. What is the
secret of Wisconsin Dells? The Dells is a natural scenic wonder that
emerged into a summer family resort destination located near three major
metropolitan areas --- Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. Can you build
another waterpark resort destination that can match its success? Now,
there’s a whole new generation of hotels with indoor waterparks that are
proving you can.
In the mid 1990s, five major resort families changed Wisconsin Dells
from a summer resort to a year-round resort destination when they built
their mega-resort hotels with indoor waterparks. Visitors to Wisconsin
Dells increased from 1.5 million in 1993 to 2.5 million in 1998. Today, 14
hotels in the Dells area have some sort of extended indoor waterpark.
The plague of the hotel industry has always been low weekend occupancy.
Business hotels that fill during the week tend to suffer on the weekends.
Leisure hotels that do well on the weekends find it difficult to fill
rooms during the week. Many, many hotel owners, managers and marketers
want to know if the indoor waterpark can be answer to this age-old
Hotels with indoor waterparks are mostly new construction and few in
number JLC Hospitality Consulting Inc, working with the World Waterpark
Association, facility owners, architects and other consultants, continues
to gather a hotel-waterpark database of construction costs, industry
operating expense ratios as well as before and after impact of indoor
waterparks on hotel occupancy, average room rates and room revenues.
Typical Hotels Vs Hotels with Indoor
In one Wisconsin Dells survey, it was reported that typical hotels
achieved an annual occupancy of 45% with average room rates of $70, while
the hotels with indoor waterparks achieved 65% with average room rates of
$130. Remember, Wisconsin Dells is a summer resort destination with a
100-day season. But now, hotels with indoor waterparks are attracting
guests all winter long.
In another hotel survey published by the World Waterpark Association,
the Wisconsin Dells area was selected because it is a destination resort
market with a sizeable number of hotels both with and without waterparks.
JLC Hospitality Consulting calculated the occupancy and average room rates
from charts published by the WWA.
Here you can compare the occupancy and average room rates of a typical
hotel with swimming pool versus a new generation hotel with indoor
Source: JLC Hospitality Consulting Inc,
World Waterpark Association. Based on a Wisconsin Dells hotel survey in Year
Typical Hotel With Swimming
Hotels with indoor waterparks achieved nearly 21
points higher occupancy and $14 higher room rates annually than hotels
with ordinary swimming pools. The hotels with indoor waterparks achieved
30 or more points of occupancy above typical hotels in the September –
December period and achieved 20 or more points of occupancy above typical
hotels in the January – April period. Hotels with indoor waterparks do a
superior job of attracting business during the slower shoulder months and
the low months compared to hotels with just an ordinary indoor swimming
When the major resort families in Wisconsin Dells
built their mega-resorts with indoor waterparks, they changed The Dells
from a summer resort to a year-round resort destination. One hotel indoor
waterpark will not make a resort destination. However, the first hotel
indoor waterpark in any market will likely make that hotel the number one
choice among hotels for the leisure travel segment. That hotel will
increase its market share compared to all other hotels in the competitive
area --- simply due to having an indoor waterpark. The hotel with an
indoor waterpark will generate occupancy points and room revenues well
above typical hotels --- especially in the hard-to-fill shoulder and low
City and small town planners are always asking, "How
can we boost our local economy through tourism development?" When
communities take stock, get a vision and then encourage developers to
improve on the tourism product, then a community can begin to create a
resort destination, such as the Dells, Galena, Stillwater, Frankenmuth or
Developing a hotel indoor waterpark can be a
complicated matter requiring the services of professional consultants. You
will need expert advice regarding economic feasibility, architectural
design, aquatic engineering, heating & ventilation, water quality and
The new generation waterpark is different from the
common indoor swimming pool with a few water attractions. New indoor
waterparks may be designed as stand-alone community centers open to the
public. Or they may be designed in conjunction with hotels and resorts for
the use of their guests. The major difference between a community
waterpark and a hotel waterpark is the requirement for extensive public
showers and dressing areas in a public facility. If you are planning to
construct a hotel indoor waterpark, most governing bodies will not require
these extra dressing rooms and showers, since hotel guests have their own
rooms for dressing and showering.
How Big Should Your Waterpark
The size of the indoor waterpark will be dictated by
the results of your Market Analysis & Economic Feasibility Report.
However, an industry rule of thumb indicates that a 100 to 150-room hotel
may be able to generate enough additional income to support the investment
of a 15,000 to 20,000 square foot indoor waterpark. Hotels ranging in size
from 150 to 250 rooms may be able to support a 30,000 to 40,000 square
foot waterpark or waterpark.
Match Facility Design to
The type of attraction you create is going to be
dictated by the size and demographics of your leisure travel customer, the
age of their children and the size of your indoor enclosure. Here is a
discussion of three different attractions --- small, medium and large ---
grouped by size of the facility and the age range of participants they
will most likely draw. This will help you match your facility
configuration to the needs and preferences of your customer or the
customer you want to attract.
Waterparks Under 15,000 Square
The Kiddie Pool or children’s activity pool is
the element that provides the most enjoyment for families visiting an
Waterpark Under 15,000 square feet. This is a pool ranging in depth from 3
to 18 inches covering an area of 2,000 square feet. The pool should be
equipped with a play element offering numerous activities in the form of
spraying components, tilting buckets and slides ranging from 2 to 6 feet
in height. A slide approximately 6-feet in height can have a length
ranging from 45 to 50 feet in length.
The Activity Pool attracts guests ranging in
age from 8-years to adult. This is usually a conventional swimming pool
about 25 feet wide by 50 feet long with depths of 3 to 5 feet. The size of
this pool is usually dictated by the activities included. This pool should
provide a variety of activities, which allows for the mingling of larger
groups. Design the Activity Pool to accommodate several movable water
basketball hoops which allows a variety of water basketball activities. In
addition to hoops, you can outfit this pool with a volleyball net ---
enabling groups to play water volleyball.
The Whirlpool is the third element that should
be included as a basic element of any indoor waterpark. Whirlpools are
excellent gathering areas for adults and accommodate younger children. The
whirlpools should be located away from the Kiddie Pool and as far from the
activity area as possible. This will allow a conversation area for older
adults using the facility. It is also important that the whirlpool is
themed to provide a pleasing environment. For example, a waterfall is a
very relaxing whirlpool feature.
The Game Room and Snack Bar, while not
required, will provide excellent additional income for your facility and
should be considered based on the type of guest your Waterpark attracts.
Locate your game room adjacent to the waterpark in a highly visible area.
To provide a more stable environment for the game room, you may want to
separate the game room from the waterpark using a glass wall. By adding
the snack bar to this area, it is possible to include a dollar changer and
vending machines. This will reduce the need for an additional employee.
The addition of a snack bar will attract guests for a longer period of
time. These suggestions will greatly enhance the profitability of the game
The goal of the design of the indoor waterpark is to
provide a relaxing enjoyable environment for families to spend from 4 to 6
hours. An waterpark under 15,000 square feet will accomplish this goal and
provide a weekend getaway or mini vacation for a family with children 12
and under. The theming of this facility is extremely important. Do not
ignore theming. Theming should fit your particular budget, but in no case
should theming be overlooked.
Waterparks Up to 30,000 Square
Waterparks of this size will attract families with
children up to about 14 years of age. In addition to the elements
mentioned above, the waterpark of 20,000 to 30,000 square feet would
include waterslides with splashdown pools. For facilities close to 30,000
square feet, you should add a leisure river.
Waterslides are a very important element to include in
the design of an indoor waterpark. The most popular waterslide is a
partially enclosed slide that uses double or figure 8 inner tubes.
The major advantage of this slide is that is allows two riders to slide on
a tube at the same time, which is simply more fun and encourages
interaction between guests. The second most popular waterslide uses a
single tube. The third most popular is a conventional body slide.
In a facility where space is limited, the splashdown
area for the tube slide or body slide can use a runout flume. If space
permits, you can connect the splashdown pool to a leisure river to greatly
increase the capacity and enjoyment of the indoor waterpark. Leisure
rivers are usually designed with a minimum width of 10 feet and a length
dependent on the size of the indoor enclosure. Theming a leisure river
also provides increased enjoyment of the ride. There are numerous themes,
photo projection, and laser light shows that can be incorporated into the
design of the waterslide facility to add excitement. These additional
attractions will increase the cost of the facility and should be added
only after the budget for theming the facility is set.
Waterpark Above 40,000 Square
Larger indoor water facilities can be designed to
include action rivers, wave pools and waterslides. With the addition of
these elements, it will likely become necessary to include the public,
along with hotel guests, in the waterpark experience. If the decision is
made to allow the public into the facility, it is extremely important to
limit the volume of outside users. In many cases, the hotel guests will be
paying a $30 to $50 premium on their hotel room for the use of the indoor
waterpark. Therefore, it is important that hotel guests do not feel their
enjoyment is being hampered by the inclusion of walk-in guests.
Heating, Ventilating &
We recommend you work with a design firm familiar with
Design considerations for an indoor waterpark are
completely different from a conventional indoor swimming pool. To provide
maximum enjoyment, most kiddie play elements will spray a great deal of
water and result in high humidity and evaporation. The result of the
excessive aeration is the spread of chloramines and other compounds, which
if not dealt with properly will result in excessive corrosion and
deterioration of HVAC systems and other equipment as well as a hazard to
health. The corrosion and deterioration of these systems and equipment
produces air quality that is uncomfortable and possibly dangerous for
guests and employees.
Past experience indicates the optimum water
purification system will include not only a chlorine or bromine system,
but also an ozone system to reduce the chloramines formation and improve
air quality. Waterborne pathogens must be eliminated from the water,
circulation system, HVAC system and the air.
Due to the many design considerations and thought
processes incorporated into the development of an indoor
Hospitality Consulting Inc works with specialty consultants and a design
team with hands-on experience.
Want to boost hotel occupancy and revenues? Want to
extend your peak season to year round? Think about enclosing your outdoor
pool with a 30 to 50 foot high structure that includes several waterslides
and a lazy river. Think about pool expansion, renovation or the new
construction of a hotel with indoor waterpark.
Thanks to Jeff Coy, ISHC, is president of JLC Hospitality
Consulting Inc, Rochester MN for allowing this article to be
published on www.hotelfun4kids.com
Contact him at 507-289-7404 tel/fax. Email
email@example.com or go to website http://www.jeffcoy.com/.
Interested in Adding a Waterpark to your
For more information about the Hotel Fun 4 Kids™ Program see
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